tv Norman Podhoretz Discusses Making It CSPAN May 6, 2017 11:01pm-12:21am EDT
thank you. >> c-span where history unfold daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. it is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider . [inaudible conversations] i think we are ready to start. good evening, everybody. good evening. i'm eric the director and behalf of the society, i'm pleased to
welcome to this conversation. our chairman roger should be the one giving this introduction. i know this evening would have meant a great deal to him. unfortunately, he's under the weather and he sent me to the event. i am honored to state the introduction. it's been said that there's a story and the real story and then the story of how the story came to be told. the book's 50th anniversary we now celebrate tonight, "making it" by norman podhoretz is an important story anyway you look at it. tonight will tell the story behind the story. in his book, norman says all writers become famous go through ups and downs. these fluctuations reveal less about the writer's actions than they do about the changing fashions of the time. here's how he put it in his own
words 50 years ago. every morning a stock market report comes out on reputations in new york. it is invisible that those who advise to see can read it. did so-and-so have dinner at jackie kennedy's apartment mark of five points. so-and-so not invited by the. [inaudible] down and eight. did so-and-so both get nominated by the national book award press mark up two and a half. did the review of neglect to participate in the symposium was marked down to. little did norman know when he wrote these words that his own stock was about to experience an incredibly decent fair market of its own. the early signs led us to a disappointing even before the book was to publish. imagine your perspective publisher is given you a hefty advance and after reading your
manuscript they tell you, keep the money, keep the buck and under no circumstances are we going to publish it. the advice from norman's best friend from columbia, jason epstein was to throw the whole thing in the garbage. his mentor and colonial columbia that it would be a mistake and would take ten years to live down. all this before even a single reviewer had trashed the book which happen fast on the heels of publication. as the saying goes, if you live long enough you see everything. norman has lived long enough that this book, his book, has now been dubbed one of the 20 th century classics by no less than the new york review. it's their 50th anniversary reissuing under their classics and print -- hold up again. and we celebrate tonight. see for yourself, get your very own copyright here in the lobby. what an incredible reversal.
just goes to show that all truth passes through three stages: first, ridicule, then violent opposition and then acceptance is self-evident. when you read the book today, it feels as relevant as it did when it first came out. human nature doesn't change. back then, people didn't reveal their private feelings and aspirations publicly the weight norman did. he is such a good writer that then or now no one self reflection carry as much punch as his due. tonight will tell the story about why was it that norman's candidness and honesty created such an incredible star and who better to talk about it than podhoretz and podhoretz. that is norman and his son john, distinguish editor and commentary. while the book is about ambition , i know i stand here like you with great humility in the presence of true
intellectual excellence and when people ask how to understand political thought, some might say read. [inaudible] how to understand politics and structure, foreign policy, henry kissinger, but if someone were to ask you should read to understand all of these, read norman podhoretz. all the rest is, dare i say it,. [inaudible] [laughter] john, norman, climaxed. [applause] this is the first time that we have appeared in public together . i'll be 56 and a couple of weeks and you are 87. this book was published in 96 is dedicated in part to me and to my sister lucy and my sister
naomi and my late sister rachel and is described in the dedication to whom this is in a way a letter. if the letter to all of us from the past and a very banished past. that's my experience of having read this book again after maybe 25 years. the world that you are describing is so thoroughly gone from us that the ideas that it could have stirred that kind of passionate opposition and hostility will, i think, strike anybody as being absolutely fascinating. it's very sharp but rather dental debt of ambiguity about
what it means to be an excess in america and to pursue a career in the united states and the brutal bargain, as you call it, the trade-offs that are required of you in the course of your life in order to achieve success it will not strike anyone as being particularly controversial i'd like to start and then ask you to reflect on a passage at the end, at the end of the second chapter, you have just -- it's a peculiar memoir. but it's not a personal account. you make yourself the object or the the object of your analysis of how a wife pursuing success
in america is led. at this point, you are graduating from college and here's what you write. it's striking quote. in any event while i myself from a very early age do everything there was to know about jealousy and from both sides of the fence i knew almost nothing about envy having experienced little of it. not only did i not recognize it when i saw it but i was scarcely aware that such a thing existed and this remarkable up to this was compounded by my adored in child illusions of the world around me would declare a holiday whenever i wanted to cry hence my incredibly stupidity in failing to enter the gate that my friends at columbia university would be envious when after observing the blow at the.
[inaudible] it's a scholarship that he one to go to cambridge university -- they would also have to endure the fulbright any of us would get. hence to my incredible sensitivity and expecting them to be happy for me, and my amazement when i realized they were not and hence, finally, my inability to understand the intention behind their effort to persuade me that adaptability from speaking five happiness of soul rather than any virtue or of mind or character, accounted for my success. not perceiving the envy in the salt, taking it indeed, just as my friends themselves that for the honesty of the courageous love. we were great believers and telling one another the truth, i was altogether helpless before it and before the guilt and self-doubt it aroused.
it was the first time i had ever experienced because it was the envy not because of enemies but a friend. because it came at me not undisguised but posing and love. it was massed and ideological punished rationalization that is hard to identify as envy and harder still because in my instinctive terror of becoming the object of this this reading and cannibalistic passion i was unwilling to admit to myself that it was in fact been directed against me. that's a pretty fair description of what happened when this book came out. there is an admin wilson, literary critic, his diaries came out after his death and there's a passage in one of them in which he remarks i remember edwardwilson. [inaudible]
he was doing a magic trick like spinning a plate on his nose. [laughter] he was over in her apartment and that very night he went home and wrote this maybe. he heard you got a big advance and who the hell were you, the young whippersnappers getting all this money. everyone in town is talking about how awful it was. basically, you are set up to fail two years before the book came out. once people knew you had hit the mark. how do you feel 50 years at the notion that even then, having written this passage, this very passage, you had absolutely no idea that you are going to have basically, a giant boulder dropped on your head? >> that's an understatement. i was absolutely flabbergasted by the response in this book.
i was very proud of it. i was very happy i had managed to write it. incidentally, people called it a memoir or biography and i call it an auto case history. it's an ugly phrase so it never took. regrettably. as john pointed out, i was using myself as a case study of the theme of the ambition for success and whether for sales or how people feel about it. so little was undisclosed that many of the attacks on this book said this man is such a brutal and sanction his character that there's not a single word in it about his children whom he has four. the things that were said about this book are hard for me even to paraphrase.
i can tell you that the measure of the response was a story in newsweek magazine which went something like this and i'm quoting almost exactly, last week, in new york, and a dinner table, a new subject eclipsed vietnam as the subject of the general outrage. a book called "making it". imagine a clip seen vietnam. [laughter] in 1967. >> yes. it was amazing. i was, of course, deeply hurt as well as baffled but what could i do. the book i had written and i wanted to throw in the garbage and my best friend suggested i hope he is having indigestion
over the fact that the new york review is reissued it over as a classic. >> the new york review was edited for decades before the ex-wife. he was married for 30 some odd years and she was one of the editors. >> i can only hope that jason is suffering from a severe case of indigestion. [laughter] my main feeling about the reissue is one of equal astonishment as the original reception. i certainly never thought i would live to see the day where i would be vindicated. there it is. i tell the editor of the new
york book review, edwin frank, i haven't told him this but when he called you to tell me that he had just read this book for the first time and he liked it, and wanted to publish it in the new york review, i thought it was a practical joke. [laughter] when i discovered that it wasn't a practical joke i asked him whether the late bob the builder 's had any. >> he was the coeditor and the sole editor of the new york review books for 54 years until he died a couple of weeks ago. >> anyway, i wondered what might happen when bob heard about this and he heard about it and edwin frank assured me that he had editorial and there was nothing to worry about. i won't make any connections between the sudden death of. [laughter]
it's a weird coincidence. >> so, just to give you a sense of how times have changed, a lot of people in this room know that there was a long profile in the new york times couple of weeks ago by john leland as part of the series of lions of new york in which leland sat down with you and discussed this banished world the new york intellectual and what you called, the family and the outpouring of enthusiasm about the world that was invoked in this piece which was 10000 times more powerful. the book was such that a friend of mine who is a movie producer sent me a text saying can we talk?
i happen to be in the san francisco airport waiting for a bag and i said sure, call me, i have five minutes. i went to the rental car station and he called me and said so, i was just texting this young movie star a and young movie star a wrote this piece in the new york times and he is very excited about the possibility of making a tv series out of this world where people are arguing about books and their drinking and they're having fights and its madmen but with books. [laughter] when i was a teenager one day, at mysister's apartment we sat down and we wrote out this
immensely long list of characters should play parts in the version of "making it". we decided this would be in the late 70s, richard dreyfus should play you. [laughter] laurence olivier who it's just in the jazz finger giving a horrendous performance as a yiddish speaking holocaust survivor cancer should play your father. [laughter] this should give you a sense of the absurdity of this notion of a cerebral, very intellectual book about intellectuals might evoke this kind of response in the world of popular culture. yet, reading it, as i think we all would find when you read it, if you haven't read it yet,
there is a real glamour that isn't just the glamour that you as an immigrant kid getting interested, son of immigrants, son of the milkman, very poor growing up in brooklyn, having access to a world in which the mind is centrally survival in the grammar of it. a lot of people weren't that glamorous in real life in their own person and i don't think philip rob was a particularly glamorous rob, he had many affairs and would be a very fine character on a tv show. but the glamour is very real because this is a book about people who take something with immense seriousness. >> interesting,. [inaudible]
a well-known libertarian, writer , wrote a book about glamour in which she says her idea of glamour came out of a book called "making it". that was the world in which she would've wanted to participate. it was certainly glamorous to me it was also very dangerous. a scene in which i take party, a lot of people there, a lot of parties, if you happen to be at the wrong side of the room for mary mccarthy, you are in danger of being excoriated with the brilliance of a. [inaudible] does that name mean anything to anyone #mary mccarthy was a
critic and a novelist and a wit who was about ten years, 15 years older than you. right #she would've been from a previous generation. the founding generation as it was called the family. she was rare in this case because she was a catholic. >> most of the new york intellectuals were jewish but a surprising number were not. when the world this group always identified as jewish but some of its most important members were not jewish. it was more complicated than that. in any event, it was a world that's hard even to imagine in today's climate and as i say in the book, people actually painted. [inaudible] over a great disagreements.
or whether it was a great novel or not. i wrote a critical review of that book by, 1963, i was a kid, 23 years old and one of these big parties and very drunken gentleman came up to me out of nowhere and he turned out to be john berryman who was a famous poet and he said will get you for that review if it takes ten years. >> there's a very interesting anecdote about that in the book. you do not name berryman and for a book that's viewed or was viewed as being a bowl girly, gossipy, you are in fact
indulging shockingly literal gossip because, as you said, this isn't what it was for. it was in fact, had it, had you been a more. [inaudible] had name names and been more open about who the anecdotes, you couldn't tell who the anecdotes were about, the negative integrals. you don't even name the great antagonist in the book the twin editors who come and commentary in the mid- 50s when the editor is in question elliott: had a nervous breakdown. you simply call that this tandem , twins, the boss but one of them was the eminent art critic, pretty much in american history. you don't even say that it was kevin greenberg. this is a book that you emulated
from gossip and deliberately not gossipy so the stories are there >> kevin greenberg was very eminent. he was a great champion of jackson pollock. he was said to have discovered jackson pollock. his rivaled was harold rosenberg who roundup writing art criticism for the new yorker and when i first came to into the world, it was inconceivable that harold rosenberg would write for the new yorker at all. they were two rival powers in the art world. rothenberg was a protestant and cooney and pollock rivalry led to a, greenberg -- he had a fistfight in our living room and someone who said the wrong thing
about jackson pollock or another painter. it's hard -- i was watching on television the series called the west by ken burns a disciples which is very pro- indian and there's a scene in which chief sitting bull and he says, i was a great chief and i have these lands that i had these followers and now where are they all? i have to tell you that since it has been reissued, i feel like sitting bull, the chief of a tribe. i wrote a book. [inaudible] i do name a lot of names and i
did admit that is much as i suffered in that world, i missed it i miss the intensity in the passion. it wasn't just about literature but politics. everybody in that world -- the right was off the radar. it didn't exist. it was a question of whether you are a stalinist or anti- stalinist or social democrat or. [inaudible] and so on. those were the factions and those were taken with deadly seriousness. these arguments over whether marx was responsible for the wars of stalinist russia. however,. >> the quote from page 116 and your initial entry into the
world -- through the offices of commentary for which you had started to write in 1952 as a 22 -year-old and were befriended by probably the best essayist whoever wrote for a commentary outside of the one sitting here [he died tragically and probably the best writer in his late 30s of a heart attack. he prevented you and here are the settings which are greenberg who is not so generous, that the only indication of the thing which i said about greenberg. i said i was a natural, i reviewed, learning how, another
famous socialist self-described socialist literary intellectual figure created a magazine called [inaudible] had been expressing concern over the neoconservatism of that younger generation on the basis of one of my reviews. neoconservatism. it appears in this book in 1967 long before anybody thought to adopt the term and apply it to you. although, i will say, again, toward the end of this book there are hints of the change that you were about to go through in which you start complaining about how the new left which you as an editor had started championing in the 1960 s had stopped dealing with the difficulties and social problems of the united states in
the 1950s, largely being racial and had started delving into the ideas of the 1930s, communism, support for socialism , they viewed it as someone who had had clung to anti- communism that you had never fallen prey to. there, interestingly enough is a hint of what it was that you didn't even understand that it was going to invoke this and raged reaction to the book. >> that's a very important point . i never looked at making it after it was published. never. it was only two weeks ago when i reread it. in 60 years. i was afraid to read it because
down deep i wondered if they were right. maybe it's a lousy book. one of the things that was said about it was the book was no literary distinction whatsoever. well, i thought it was beautifully written myself. [laughter] >> you can tell from the passage that any such claim is absolutely preposterous. >> in any event, i was also told that the book was humorless and i thought it was funny in places there were other things -- when i reread the book for the first time, it was a strange expense. i tried reading it through the eyes of someone else which is not that hard because in 50 years you change a lot and the author of this book was not someone i recognized. i was able to look at it and had
an abnormal a degree of objectivity. when i most came away with was not reassurance that i had written a classic but how crazy all those people were. [laughter] each arrangement, virtually everything they said about this book, was not only wrong but the opposite of this group. you could have made a very good case against this book on serious grounds, i suppose. but nobody did. everyone who wrote about it has said things that were so blatantly untrue that i was bewildered. now, i did however, detect something that may have accounted for the rage and it
was something that i myself did not realize until i reread it. there are hints and germs here of what was to follow. i wrote this book thinking of myself as the man of the left. i was a fully accredited intellectual over the last and to some extent, a leader i had no notion of committing any apostasy's or blasphemies against the wrote political religion that i belong to but reading this book i can see that there were emanations of what was to come. to most of my friends and especially my friends, know this apostasy being bored. >> let me read the passage.
it was. [inaudible] they have not been adequate responsive to the needs of the negro masses. another to accuse them of being in secret coalition with the races to keep the negroes down. it was one thing to say to the american official system was failing in this responsibility to the poor and another two sentimental eyes dropping out of school as an active social protest. it was one thing to be critical of american society institutions on foreign-policy and another to be dismissive of the democratic system is a total fake. when i thought of these ideas and attitudes at the return of the repressed clichés of the 30 s, oppressed because of the so trials and the crews of speech and the revelations of the wars of communism, my interpolation, i meant that they
had no purpose beyond proving what how rotten america was. when in the pre- popular days stalinist adopted the same tactics, it the belief that the tactic would help bring the level dilution closer in the 60 s. in the middle of the 60s, when it was written, was traveling demonstrated the particular active legislation did not go far enough with the american policy in a given area of the world was based on assumptions no revolutionary strategy was of all. the only purpose recently been served with a pile of evidence of the fraudulent democratic government was to prove that america was wasted or counterrevolutionary. so, i think there is. [inaudible] you may not have known it. >> oddly enough, hardly any and he said that. in attacking the book.
again, you have to understand that this is easier to understand from the perspective of today's cultural climate than it would have been then. everything was being politicized everything. the politics was a black hole sucking everything in and to say something positive about success about the ambitions of success that was not even wrong with it. that was one of the main points i made in the book. to extol what would've been called the middle class values or the bourgeoisie life. it was about. [inaudible] this was an explosive idea and i don't know why i was so naïve
and stupid is not to realize how explosive it was. i'll say in my own defense i had been raised intellectually with the idea of the single greatest virtue of literature was honesty . honesty that was disclosed that had qualities in oneself. here i had written a book, very faithful to that precept and one of the most important teachers i had who had instructed me in the virtues was lionel trilling advised me not to publish this book. what the hell is going on here? i can see now that the defense of what would have been the
bourgeoisie way of life was the main source of the outrage against the book. for some reason, nobody wanted to say that so they kept picking on other things that were as i said, mostly untrue. >> however, it is not in on tamil defense of success. or even that you simply say that it is the nature of the human condition for people to seek power and authority and to have success but with success can be defined in many different kinds of ways. it can't be definitively defined as monetary success. that wasn't anything that, even as you say, spoke to you. you did so much better than your own parents had done and jumped classes ahead of them that it
would've seemed science-fiction to take those other leaps. there are all kinds of trade-offs in achieving the success including the alienation of your family, having to acknowledge that you are out distancing your beloved childhood friends socially and that the people in a circle you wish to live were mean, average, hostile to each other, blunt, brutal but very, very clever. this is a world in which mattered was being clever. >> the brainpower in that world was explosive. it was like nothing i'd seen before or since. i later wrote an attack on. [inaudible] my friend in jerusalem and she was a close friend of mine at the time and she came became one
of my earlier x friends and i subtitled it the notes on the perversity of brilliance. if anyone who ever lived was brilliant it was. [inaudible] what did that brilliance of bring her to? it was extremely perverse, extensively preserve perverse conclusions about things to the relative subject. that was true about a lot of these people. they were wrong about practically everything but they were brilliantly wrong. it was worth your life to take them on. it was dangerous to debate with some of these people, you'd walk away humiliated within ten minutes unless you are really good at it. that was one of the great lessons that i learned from
living in that world. it took me a long time to absorb it into fully understand how much it meant. >> i think the only criticism that you have to acknowledge was correct in the case of this book which was a line by the colonist in new york city marie kempton who was the name of the family to describe the intellectual world that you mentioned. she said only norman podhoretz to consider living on 105th broadway, making it mac. [laughter] there's a lot of truth to that. [inaudible conversations]
she lived at a hundred and third and broadway. she's not speaking from a great perch. [laughter] she came from a highly aristocratic family in baltimore , grandfather had been a chief justice of the baltimore court and so on. when he was young, he was a communist and he got himself arrested in a mayday demonstration. all these kids were hauled up before this judge and the judge gave them a very stern lecture and sentence them to whatever was, ten days in the county jail and then he said, not you mari, not you. i'm not surprised to see you here in this courtroom and i
have to assume that it was a wayward impulse that brought you here. he never got over that and you can imagine that he too was very brilliant. it's true that there was a lot of ambivalence in my -- what should i call it smart justification of the ambition for success. but the fact is and i see now clearly, there wasn't much you could say in the year 1967 in new york or in the united states generally. that would be more offensive than to say that it is better to be rich than to be poor and it
is better to be powerful than powerless. the rights the life lived by those are successful. [inaudible] there was nothing more. [inaudible] than middle-class values at that period. i thought of this book and writing this book and the things in the antiwar movement had not yet come to real fruition and the civil rights movements it was a perfect storm. everything that was going on in
this culture was the substance of this book. in a sense, i didn't say anybody here who heard about it it invokes the strange tone with which you are criticized for vulgar pronunciation of your own hunger for success and pursuit of it which is entirely the opposite read the book begins making fun of it and let me introduce myself. i'm a man with a precocious age of 35 experience an astonishing revelation.
it is better to be a success than a failure. having been penetrated with this great truth concerning the nature of things my mind was now open for the first time to a series of perceptions, each one an impact as the original revelation itself. money, i now sought and important was it better to be rich than to be poor? power i now sought moving on to higher subtleties was valuable. [inaudible] how courageous of me not to flinch with the unqualified delicious, it was better to be recognized than to be anonymous. this book represents an effort to explain why it has taken someone like myself so long to allies arrive at such an
elementary discovery. in the world in which he lived those discoveries because of the perversity of brilliance, these very simple home truth had to be buried under a set of intellectual presumptions that contradicted them. >> yeah, i want to throw in a quick story about my mother. john made reference to the alienation of one's family and its involvement in one act to another. [inaudible] he goes into great detail about the saying of having seven rated from his youth.
my mother could never understand what i was doing. [laughter] she wondered if i was a journalist. the second floor's son was a doctor, no problem there, someone else was a lawyer and he had a cadillac but what exactly -- she knew i made a reputation in my name was in the papers and when people, relatives asked what is he exactly, she said she couldn't answer. my father could but he was too snobbish to get into these discussions. my mother once had blissfully here you have in this little remark encapsulated a huge sociological theory.
she said blissfully i sit amazed [inaudible] a lot of you know what that means. it was a kid who became a dentist was a kid who failed to become a doctor and though he might make a lot of money and visit his mother every sunday and drive her out to his mansion but nevertheless he was a failed doctor. >> that she could understand. >> that she could understand. there would have been this problem if i had been a dentist. i lived in this world world that she could make no sense of. >> you had one other anecdote and i think it's telling because it would've been around when you were in your early 50s,
eminent american pretty much for 25 years you had been a born child of immigrants who spoke yiddish accents, your mother died 20 years ago, your father was a milkman which is a terrible failure in life because as a person in the terms that's making it describes and there you were. you made yourself a mess and a notorious or whatever you were. i was home from college or home from washington for the weekend and i was going out at night and i had on a suit, something, and brown shoes and you said you're wearing a brown shoes? i said, yeah. brown shoes.
i never had the social self-confidence to wear brown shoes back when i was a kid and we would go on saturdays or sundays walk from our house to go to the movies in midtown or something like that you always wear a jacket and tie and i always assumed what that was about the shoes, jacket, tie was somebody would find you, look at you if you are wearing just a shirt with an open collar and send you back to brownsville. >> the brown shoes has a story. i was once again accused in this piece of the times of dropping names so i was now dropping names. jackie kennedy, there was a period in which i became very friendly with jackie kennedy. henry wilson made a nasty remark in the journals and i lost her
friendship because of "making it". she said a man who brags about his grades in school, that was her. [inaudible] we went to a party at her house. we were living on the west side and you practically needed a visa. i was wearing a brown shoes with a blue suit or maybe it was even a brown suit. in any case, jackie looks me over and said, you scooted across the pond in your little brown suit and your nice brown shoes. i won't tell you what i said when she said that. it was scatological. that's where the session with brown shoes came in.
it has remained, i don't own any brown shoes. >> does anyone have any comments we have microphones. weight if you wish to speak, wait for the microphone. >> i would like to thank you for your comments on this collection [inaudible] you never mention possibly the fact that you are jewish and had anything to do with it. was that also a factor? >> i don't think so. well, i mean, i was so nakedly jewish and the fact that the people who attacked the books themselves were jewish and being
jewish was fashionable and literary society that it was the breakthrough,. [inaudible] it was not disabilities, so to speak. it is possible, now that you mention it that all that nakedly jewish might have offended some people, yeah. >> there is a thing in the book where you begin talking about having this high school teacher, mrs. k who is one of the authors of your alienation from your immigrant family and the idea that you could set your sights very high. she wanted you to go to harvard and train you in the proper behavior and her constant
indications to you was, don't be a literal dirty slum child. is that what you're going to be, a dirty slum child? on the one hand, the savagery of that and on the other hand, a world in which no one has this idea the world we live in now in which no one sees even if it's out of snobbery that there are people mired would be helped along by the notion that the world in which they live is not a world in which they should aspire to grow because to stay in it is to be mired in it. i think dirty little slum child, it was a euphemism. even for her. even a spectacularly rude woman wouldn't say dirty little jew boy but that's probably when she
bent. >> the kind of jew she was married to wasn't the kind of jew i knew. he was a german jew. he wore on. [inaudible] [laughter] he also was a hater of roosevelt >> sir. wait for the mic. >> may i give you a fastball down the middle? do you see any parallels between the intelligence of the mid- 1960s and the intelligentsia of today from a political perspective? >> yeah. well, i could spend hours answering that question. the answer is that the political intelligentsia of today is the
product of the degradation of the political intelligentsia of the 40s and 50s. i can summon up and i tell in the book i once was invited. [inaudible] about vietnam and i was ambivalent against but a union call with the radical leftist and i went there with one of my colleagues, the late marian who had a wicked tongue and we walked in and about 20 people scattered in the union hall and she said to me, do you realize every single person in this room is a tragedy to some family or other? [laughter] they took over america in the
next ten or 20 years, these people. those attitudes. the maoists, the long marks, the institutions, the long anti- americanism resulted in my opinion first of all in the takeovers of the democratic party by mcgovern and his followers. finally, jumping ahead to the election of barack obama and also the mayor of new york. i may offend some people here if i say that i have described what we are going through is what obama was as president we have stalinist in the white house.
they are interested in what would pass for intelligence tody i do so in a culture in which the tenor of something that is really serious is something that does not speak to a great many people and does not intimidate people. one of the things you describe is how the 1960s of america achieved this. it needed an intellectual leadership class as part of its makeup so it summoned you and others into the mainstream. all these places which were incredibly respectful with the
beaming shining new leader, we have intellectuals just like europe. not that there's anywhere else in the world that is more serious than the united states because i think that would be hard to argue that european countries are more intellectually serious than we are, they seem to be less, but discussing ideas, you discuss an idea that's too controversial, and they summoned a mob to your house or they publish your address online so the mob can come storm your house or if you say something clever that is out of the realm of what's deemed to be appropriate, you spend
weeks and months apologizing and dare you say something that no one disagrees with which is that the country is coming apart socially and polarizing because of something you wrote 22 years earlier that no one has read. it's much worse now. there's a responsibility by this class when the romantic left of the 1960s began to
take over and people that you wanted to be in the fight simply refused or were too afraid or lost confidence in their own approach. >> my experience with this book has been so different that maybe it would be worth commenting on. about five times since 1990, i gave a course on new york intellectuals. i would say by far the most interesting students i ever attracted were for this course , were people who wanted very much to be new yorkers. there is a hunger for that. i think one of my favorite
moments from this course was a very bright student who was shaking her head like this, and i said is something the matter, and she said we will never write like that. never ever ever. your book was always on that course. it always aroused so much interest and attention and discussion, and i was so grateful to you for coming to that course once in a while. it didn't feel that energy, but it's still there. what i wanted to ask and say is that ironically enough, it is university that destroyed the possibility of that intellectual cohort. had they ever gone for a phd, have they ever been in university, it wouldn't of
happened so there's something very sad about that because all of the students would've wanted to break out, many of them have become editors, i don't know if there's even one that has become a university professor. >> one of the things you talk about, you actually talk about the weird window in which you live where you or someone who was interestin interested in an idea assumes that the only way to engage with them with books and literature was to go out and get a phd and become a university professor and you are good to g go, you went to
cambridge and would write a dissertation. >> then you realize this was not the world for you and i was actually too far removed. what is it that kissinger said, you wanted to be somewhere for the stakes were higher and it just so happened that the world opened up in which there's a possibility of making a living like this. there isn't really any more, entirely. most people who do this stuff for a living do teacher make some kind of living stitching together university jobs. do you feel that you missed out on educating the young?
they spent so many decades trying to do that. >> i have a very low opinion of the american university. i think it's degraded and degrading environment and it will take some kind of revolution to recapture the glories it once enjoyed. this is not unique. in the 18th century, came cambridge lost a serious intellectual test that they had carried. if you look at the great intellectuals and artists of the early 18th century in london, not one of them even went to university.
they were doctor johnson and that whole group. i think we are seeing something like that now with some of the best people intellectually have come out of thing take think tanks rather than the universities. i can tell you, i was a great fan of general petraeus to begin with and then i heard he had gotten his phd at princeton and i said to my wife oh. >> the other thing you talk about, columbia, where you went in 1946, the purpose of the core course that everyone had to take was to introduce and enroll everyone in the
college in western civilization. this is where greatness comes from you come up to the present day, everything that we have, everything that we are emanates from this, and this is obviously a teaching that's no longer acceptable. >> hey ho, western sieve has got to go. >> i do not disagree that we live in grave times. i wonder if we can agree that your book has been republished in the article that john mentioned about you invoked such a strong positive
response. i wonder if this is something not a lot. >> i would be delighted to be taken as a portends. i'm an old guy by now so what they say, if you live long enough basically you live through everything. i feel a bit like that myself, especially in light of these two events. >> if new york city can come back from where it was in the 70s and 80s, anything can happen.
>> how different was the family existence be if the internet and social media existed at that time? >> obviously very different. it's almost impossible to imagine. >> i'm not surprised to hear this, i'm not a great follower of social media in the internet. i live on the internet seven hours a day, something like that and i think there's a lot to be said for it, but certainly it's not have an effect on intellectual discourse, the one term that's missing from this discussion is the term highbrow. there was a clear distinction
in those days between what was highbrow, middlebrow and lowbrow. there was very little communication among these fears. for better or worse, those distinctions disappeared and i think that has a lot to do with the loss of the particular quality. i mentioned harold rosenberg who wrote about everything and was very brilliant. he was asked to write an article for the new yorker and that was a great turning point in american culture and in a certain sense it was.
the editor called him in and said i just read your latest piece and i don't know what you're talking about. he said don't worry about it, i know what i'm talking about. >> if there is this highbrow snobbery, the book-of-the-month club, foreign films, that sort of thing was something for which highbrow's had the most extreme contempt and yet it turned out that without this world of what might be called a deal worshipers or people
who believed they should be in some proximity to this even if they had no standards or appropriately arched standards that the collapse of the middlebrow collapsed the highbrow as well because even though, the middle row supported the highbrow. [inaudible] >> that is the oddity. there is no definable highbrow left in the united states. >> i rise at the end because i want to report on an experience i had yesterday where i simply want to lay out
consideration for everybody here. there was a man named pat moynahan. at the end of his life i became a very good friend. i contributed a small amount to an effort to produce a document to film his wife which i had the privilege yesterday of viewing. i don't think the film was going to attract any huskers, but i wanted to raise again in your mind, the memory of a person, like the man i know and knew and i commend to all
of you if the film does get to a movie house, which i doubt because the quality of the production leaves a lot, he was a man you know very well, who was committed to performing the negro race and the negro family, he died without solving the problem, and i just want to commend to any of you are interested in what he had said that he voiced himself to try to change society so that the black family would not be destroyed.
>> i have to interrupt you now because i now have to tell that. >> i just want to make you aware that phil may be coming and you should see it. >> okay, i need to share a piece of gossip with everybody. you know the un speech, the thing that made his interac international reputation, he wrote it. that's the gossip. just to let you know. >> cspan now knows. that one of the most important speeches was written by him. >> only the part that everybody remembers.
>> he was a very close friend of mine for ten years and we became somewhat estranged in later years. that's a long story, but he was a highbrow intellectual and one of the very few since john adams. he was able to make a career in american politics. he was absolutely unique in that point of view. i came to regret that he had chosen a political career because it cut the edge on his brilliance. he was brilliant and right
rather than brilliant and wrong. he was a great friend. >> when it comes to brilliant and right. [inaudible] [applause] >> when you said nice things recently a few years ago, i knew that your book would bring back making it. i'm going to buy this because i want to read the introduction and i have a perfect first edition and i want to thank you because i can now add it to my bank statement. we have skirted around the issue a little bit. we have properly trashed the great universities of today
but there's this more general point. i always thought that's what he meant. [inaudible] that point is that there is precious little correlation and maybe even an inverse relationship between intellectual prowess and good judgment and the ability to govern. >> so it would seem. >> thank you very much. [applause] [inaudible conversation] >> i'm standing in front of